Toronto

New class-action lawsuit for 650 Parliament residents targets Toronto Hydro

A new class-action lawsuit — the second filed on behalf of tenants at 650 Parliament St. after an August fire that left hundreds homeless — not only targets the building owners and property management but also Toronto Hydro.

Lawsuit alleges utility company didn't have proper wiring, didn't take care of electrical outlets, laywer says

Dozens of Toronto firefighters were called to deal with a fire at the Parliament Street highrise in August. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

A new class-action lawsuit — the second filed on behalf of tenants at 650 Parliament St. after an August fire that left hundreds homeless — not only targets the building owners and property management but also Toronto Hydro. 

Lawyer Vadim Kats says the lawsuit alleges that the city-owned utility didn't have proper wiring and didn't take care of the building's electrical outlets, which led to the fire.

The class action is suing for $50 million in damages, $10 million in punitive damages and legal costs. 

Lawyer Vadim Kats says the new lawsuit alleges that Toronto Hydro didn't have proper wiring and didn't take care of the building's electrical outlets. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

The lawsuit, which follows a similar action filed by a pair of law firms on Sept. 5 seeking compensation for the building's 1,500 tenants, alleges that the property owner didn't take adequate care of the building and that the company overseeing the building should have been aware of its issues. 

"So far, we haven't heard from the landlord or any of the parties," Katz told CBC Toronto. "What we were hoping is that the landlord will come up with a short-term solution by providing housing accommodations."

When approached for comment, Toronto Hydro said it was unable to speak on matters that are currently before the court. The property management company and the owners also didn't return CBC Toronto's calls asking for comment.

'We had no other choice'

Single mother Yulia Tomash is leading what is the second class-action lawsuit on behalf of 650 Parliament St.'s tenants. 

Tomash says not only has she been homeless with her daughter — even sleeping at a mechanic's office in an industrial area for days — but also says $5,000 in cash was stolen from her unit and it was ransacked.

"Somebody has to do it, and we had no other choice," she said of the lawsuit. "I want my daughter to sleep well at night. She doesn't sleep well since it happened."

She says the vulnerable state that she has been left in since the August fire has been "extremely stressful."

Single mother Yulia Tomash is leading the second class action lawsuit on behalf of the tenants. She says her daughter hasn't slept well since the fire happened. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

"I feel sometimes powerless, useless, because it's not in my power to do anything at the moment," she added.

"We have lost a lot of things, and we're embarrassed at the same time because I have to ask many people for help, and I haven't been getting any help, unfortunately."

The class action still needs to be certified by the courts, which could take months.

If the certification happens, the lawyers involved would be able to go through the building's records, including maintenance and safety inspection records, to get information to support the lawsuit's allegations. 

Community centre no longer available for residents

The news of the second lawsuit comes as the city said Wednesday that residents affected by the fire who were staying at the Regent Park Community Centre would no longer be at the city-owned building. 

An emergency reception centre currently at the community centre will be closed as of Friday, and the residents are being moved to other accommodations, provided by the property owner of the charred out apartment building, the city said yesterday.

The city said Wednesday that residents affected by the 650 Parliament St. fire who were staying at the Regent Park Community Centre would no longer be housed at the city-owned building. (City of Toronto)

It added that it has led a coordinated response to help the residents displaced by the fire.

"While the city of Toronto remains committed to supporting the displaced residents, the primary responsibility for ongoing support ... rests with the private property owner and its agent, Wellesley Parliament Square Property Management," the city said in a media release.

Building ravaged by electrical fire

The residential highrise tower at 650 Parliament St. was ravaged by an electrical fire on Aug. 21, forcing around 1,500 residents to vacate. 

The blaze, which started in the basement, sent thick plumes of smoke pouring out of multiple apartments, causing substantial structural damage and knocking out the electrical system.

Tenants have been told it may take several months before they can return. 

While many have already rented new apartments or are staying with family or friends, hundreds of residents had to find other places to stay.

With files from Chris Glover and Amara McLaughlin

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